Schools are great a helping kids find out how to do things – reading, writing, math, research, and critical thinking to name a few. They are good at helping kids discover the importance of physical activity, sharing, honesty, art, music, and learning languages to name a few. What I don’t see very often, is helping them to discover more about themselves by looking at who they are, what makes them tick, why they think certain things are important while others don’t, or how to become centered rather than scattered. It won’t work to simply tell them to go discover themselves – we have to be there to mentor them on their journey.
I remember the first time that I took a personality inventory. I was at a conference, in a room full of teenagers and adults, and I was nervous about what my “test” would say about me. However, when the presenter stood up and began walking us through what our results meant, it was clear that there was not a right or wrong answer. This was discovering more about myself and those around me. Why do I function the way that I do? Why do I like quiet? Is it weird that I don’t mind when plans get rearranged? Over the course of the afternoon, I became much more comfortable in who I was, and therefore was more comfortable in claiming that and being proud of who I was.
So much of our culture is telling children and youth how to do things to be successful. What we in the church need to be about is helping them discover and celebrate who they are as individuals and what gifts they bring to the community.
A few ways of helping guide youth on the journey of discovery:
1) Have someone come in and do a personality inventory with them. Invite a professional or someone who really knows their stuff so that you can participate as well, making sure that this doesn’t come down to labels, but comes down to understanding more about themselves and each other.
2) Play “continuum” games where you set up an imaginary line and ask a question such as, “Would you rather go to a party with lots of people or stay home and do something quiet on a Friday night.” Ask them to find themselves somewhere on the line and then talk about it.
3) Over the course of a few weeks, offer prayer workshops in a wide variety of ways – prayer through art, singing, dancing, meditation, corporate prayer, etc. and then discuss which they feel more drawn to as a personal practice.
There are many more ways to engage them in discovering more about who they are, who God has made them to be, and how to celebrate that – the important thing is that we, as a community of faith, support, and love are present to guide them on this discovery. We are all made in the image of God. We are all given gifts by God to use for the betterment of the community. Now, claim that, live it, and celebrate it.
This blog originally appeared on the Faith Formation Learning Exchange on November 26, 2013.